Analysis of the A.F.C. and N.F.C. championship matchups for the right to face off in Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Tex., on Feb. 6.
6. New York Jets @ 2. Pittsburgh Steelers
When these teams played in Week 15 at Heinz Field, the Jets came from behind, then held off a last-second Steelers drive, to win, 22-17. Until Sunday’s victory over the Patriots, the win in Pittsburgh was the Jets’ most complete game: with a balanced offensive attack, an error-free Mark Sanchez and a defense to keep their low-scoring offense in it. The Steelers were able to run and pass on the Jets, but Ben Roethlisberger was sacked three times. Still, the Steelers were within inches of winning on the final pass of the game.
The oldest rivalry in football will receive a new-era face lift with this game. Sure, these teams have great defenses. And yes, they would like to run. But the stories of both teams will be how quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler perform and how much pressure the defenses can put on them, particularly on the poor Soldier Field field conditions.
Rodgers has been otherworldly this postseason (49 of 63 for 546 yards, 6 touchdowns, no interceptions), and he easily solved the Falcons’ defense.